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Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights


Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky is the current Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights. The Independent Expert carries out analytical research and undertaks country missions, in an effort to work with Governments, the United Nations, non-governmental actors and other stakeholders on issues falling under his mandate.

The terms of his mandate are contained in Human Rights Council resolution 25/16, which request him to pay particular attention to:

(a) The effects of foreign debt and the policies adopted to address them on the full enjoyment of all human rights, in particular, economic, social and cultural rights in developing countries;

(b) The impact of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations on the capacity of States to design and implement policies and programmes, including national budgets that respond to vital requirements for the promotion of the realization of social rights;

(c) Measures taken by Governments, the private sector and international financial institutions to alleviate such effects in developing countries, especially the poorest and heavily indebted countries;

(d) New developments, actions and initiatives being taken by international financial institutions, other United Nations bodies and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations with respect to economic reform policies and human rights;

(e) Quantification of minimum standards to support the realization of the Millennium Development Goals;

(f) Enhancement of consultations with all relevant stakeholders in the fulfillment of his mandate;

UN Photo/Eskinder DebebeThe Independent Expert is furthermore requested by Human Rights Council Resolution 25/9  to “continue considering the impact of illicit financial flows on the enjoyment of human rights as part of her or his mandate”.

The Independent Expert carries out country missions to study the effects of foreign debt on the realization of human rights and to engage in dialogues with the Government, international financial institutions, UN agencies and civil society as a part of his global analysis of the subject as well as to develop practical recommendations and suggestions to the countries concerned. The Independent Expert also engages in consultations with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as other international organizations active in the areas of development aid.

The Independent Expert is part of the system of Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council. With the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Special Procedures undertake country visits; act on individual cases of alleged violations and concerns of a broader, structural nature by sending communications to States; conduct thematic studies and convene expert consultations, contributing to the development of international human rights standards ; engage in advocacy and raise public awareness ; and provide advice for technical cooperation.

Guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights

In April 2004, the Commission on Human Rights (the predecessor to the Human Rights Council) requested the Independent Expert to draft general guidelines to be followed by States and by private and public, national and international financial institutions in the decision-making and execution of debt repayments and structural reform programmes, including those arising from foreign debt relief. The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure that compliance with the commitments derived from foreign debt will not undermine the obligations for the realization of fundamental economic, social and cultural rights, as provided for in the international human rights instruments After a broad consultative process the Independent Expert submitted the Guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights (A/HRC/20/23) to the Human Rights Council in June 2012. The Council endorsed the Guiding principles in its resolution 20/10.

Thematic Priorities 2014-2017

Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky who was appointed Independent Expert on 8 May 2014 identified in his first report to the General Assembly (A/69/273) the following six thematic priorities:

(a) preventive aspects of fiscal policy and debt management to avoid potential negative human rights implications of borrowing;

(b) international human rights law in the context of debt restructuring and debt relief (A/70/275);

(c) good practices to avoid negative human rights impacts in the context of debt crisis and economic adjustment programmes (A/HRC/28/59/Add.1);

(d) human rights and debt arbitration in the context of bilateral investment treaties;

(e) lending to States involved in gross human rights violations (A/HRC/28/59); and

(f) the impact of illicit financial flows on human rights (A/HRC/28/60, A/HRC/31/61).

Latest News:

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Archived news
(over 3 years old)


Call for contributions: Guidance on human rights impact assessments for economic reform policies (deadline 15 August 2017)

Social Rights - Lost in austerity? Lunch time event in Brussels, Friday 19 May 2017, 12:30-14:30

Labour Rights in the context of structural adjustment and austerity policy, Friday 3 March 2017, 13.00-15.00, Room XXV, Palais des Nations, Geneva - Side event

Read the questionnaire and responses received for the upcoming report to the Human Rights Council on debt and labour rights

Statement to the Global Assembly of the CADTM Network
26-30 April 2016
English | French | Spanish

Hold-out deal in Argentina makes solving debt crises more difficult, UN rights experts say
8 March 2016
English | Spanish

Country visit to Greece - End of mission statement
8 December 2015
English | Greek

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)
Comments of Special Procedure mandate holders on the Draft Environmental and Social Framework of the AIIB
Letter / Submission
26 October 2015

Guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights

The Guiding principles are designed to assist States and all relevant actors in the conduct of their respective activities and pursuit of their respective interests relating to external debt

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Latest reports

Report to the General Assembly (focus: integrating human rights into debt policies A/71/305)

Report to the Human Rights Council (focus: structural adjustment and labour rights A/HRC/34/57)

Visit to institutions of the European Union (focus: policy response to the financial crisis affecting several EU member States A/HRC/34/57/Add.1)

Forthcoming reports

Structural adjustment and labour rights, Human Rights Council, 34th session, March 2017

Independent Expert

Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (Argentina),
Since June 2014

Former Independent Experts

Dr. Cephas Lumina, (Zambia), 2008-2014
Mr. Bernards Mudho (Kenya), 2002-2008
Mr. Fantu Cheru (United States of America/Ethiopia), 2000-2002